The decline of the Chinook salmon threatens a whole way of life – Macleans

by ahnationtalk on May 15, 2018167 Views

Adam Weymouth tracked the journey of the Chinook salmon by canoe—all 3,000 km of it—and returned with a new respect for the North.

The salmon is not just a fish. It’s a culture. What the buffalo was to the First Nations of the North American Plains, the salmon is to the people of the Pacific Northwest. It used to be abundant up and down both coasts of the continent, but major hydroelectric projects and overfishing put an end to that. The largest remaining salmon run in the world is on the Yukon River, with headwaters at McNeil Lake, northeast of Whitehorse, and emptying into the Pacific in the western Alaskan town of Emmonak, more than 3,000 km away. Like the buffalo, the Chinook salmon—which the Americans call king salmon—is near extinction, threatening all adjacent society, but Indigenous cultures in particular.

British writer Adam Weymouth canoed those 3,000 km to explore the sanctity of the salmon’s journey. His observations and deep research form Kings of the Yukon: A River Journey In Search of the Chinook, a work that is equal parts travel writing, social science, biology and modern anthropology. The book demonstrates that people born to the North and people who have chosen the North share a generosity and resilience, as well as a sense of fatalism that comes from watching the world fall apart to the south. One man, originally from Boston, says, “There is at least one glimmer of hope: when the world comes to an end, the fish will recover just fine.” That suspicion of outsiders can be problematic when governments impose conservation measures, as in 2014–15, when an outright ban on fishing for Chinook was enacted on both sides of the international border along the Yukon River.

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